I get it. You have been backed up for days now and you are starting to panic. You know you shouldn’t stress about it because that only makes the problem worse. You feel huge and don’t want your partner touching you. You don’t schedule things in the morning in the hopes that your body might have a BM. You want to stop eating all together because you know it is just adding to the problem, but you’re human and you’re hungry. You are putting off taking a laxative because you know it isn’t good for you, but the day comes where you reach your threshold and you hit the panic button. HELLO DULCOLAX.
I have been dealing with constipation since I started my deep dive into holistic health 3 years ago. In PART II of this blog I will share my adventures in finding the root case but for now, I want you to know that I have been there. In fact, I am there right now. Gut health can be incredibly complex and as I peel away the layers, I have had many important breakthroughs (and setbacks). One of the most important things I have had to embrace is PATIENCE because if constipation is something you deal with chronically; I assure you it will not be a quick fix. That being said, there are many sources of temporary relief out there and I will share the ones I have tried and had intermittent success with here.
Please keep in mind I am not a physician or a naturopath and you should consult with your doctor if suffering from chronic constipation.
MY TOP 10 “QUICK FIXES”
A diet low in fibre may actually be your root cause and therefore is a great place to start. Fibre cannot be digested by humans so it moves through your tract unabsorbed and pulls along toxins, waste, cholesterol, excess estrogen and more on its way out. Foods containing fibre would be your veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and you want to aim for a minimum of 25g/day. You might be thinking: “I eat a lot of these foods so I should be fine”, but check out the numbers below and see whether or not you measure up:
Apple (medium-sized) 4g
Uncooked rolled oats (1/3 cup) 5g
Chickpeas (1/2 cup) 6g
Chia (2 tbsp) 7g
Avocado (1/2) 6.5g
Kale (1 cup) 1.7g
Carrot (medium) 1.5g
Quinoa (1/2 cup) 6g
If you want to use fibre as a way to experience relief, psyllium husk is a great option. It is a source of soluble fibre and when combined with water adds bulk to your stool, stimulating your peristalsis muscles to move things along in your digestive tract. It does not have much of a taste but gels up when you add it to water - definitely gag-worthy when drinking it straight up. Instead, try adding it to your smoothie or even baking with it!
Thought it was an old wives’ tale? Nope. Prunes and other high-fibre dried fruits like dates and figs can be a great option when in a pinch because it is easy to consume several at once. I chop them up and add them to smoothies or salads when I need a little digestive push.
Your microbiome plays a major role in the health of your digestion and therefore an imbalance in your gut bacteria may be contributing to your constipation. Add-in some sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and/or probiotic yogurt and see how your digestion responds. Check out this blog for more on improving your microbiome.
Magnesium-deficiencies are very common and could be the underlying cause to your difficulties pooping. Deficiency or not, magnesium can work to relieve constipation as it osmotically pulls water into the intestines and relaxes your muscles to move things along. There are many types of magnesium so look for magnesium oxide if you just want a quick constipation relief (it is poorly absorbed) and magnesium citrate if you want to tackle the deficiency along with constipation.
One of the ways you’ll know you have breached your optimal daily dose of vitamin C is bowel tolerance! Another quick and temporary solution to your woes is to take multiple doses of vitamin C throughout the day, until you poop. Note that vitamin C toxicity is unlikely as it is a water-soluble vitamin, but always consult your doctor before taking high doses.
This is a herbal stimulant laxative and therefore is definitely a temporary solution, but at least a natural option if you are desperate.
There is one herbal supplement that I adore by Wild Rose called LBT-3 (Lower Bowel Tonic). It is blend of herbs that helps to activate your peristalsis muscles that may have become sluggish.
Your body runs on a clock controlled by the rising and setting of the sun (your circadian rhythm) and therefore if you can give it more of a routine, your digestive tract may operate better. Try eating, going to bed and waking at the same time every day and see if that helps.
PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – your body is either in a state of FIGHT OR FLIGHT or REST AND DIGEST. If you are stressed all day long there is a good chance your digestive system is not functioning optimally. And if you’ve been chronically stressed for years…sh** can’t be good (pun intended). Manage your stress and your life will change. One great way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) is with deep belly/diaphragmatic breathing. The phrenic nerve runs along the side of your diaphragm and therefore activates your PNS. When I started to breathe deep into my belly at various points in a day, my bowels started to relax and voila!
I want to finish this off by saying that not everything will work for everyone. That’s bioindividuality, baby! For the list of 10 quick remedies above, I’ve had at least 20 other solutions fall flat. In fact, sometimes these band-aids work for me and sometimes they produce no result whatsoever. That's why I am putting in the legwork to find my root cause - stay tuned for PART II.